Title: Someone to Watch Over
Author: William Schreiber
Publisher: Not a Pipe Publishing
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Someone to Watch Over has all the makings of a perfect summer read — the kind of story you slowly consume over a languid day at the beach or a long afternoon stretched out on a hammock. Lennie, our middle-aged protagonist has returned home to Mosley, Tennessee, hoping to make amends with her father. However, as these things go, she decides to wait until she’s settled to make the grand reunion. She’s landed a job, but she’s still sleeping in her car and making bad decisions with ex-lovers. It never seems like the right time, and then she receives a phone call from her estranged brother, John: her dad is dead; her hopes of restoring their relationship are gone.
Nevertheless, a different relationship might be healed as she and John come together for the funeral. In reminiscing over their one family vacation, an event that apparently had a lasting impact on their father, John decides to recreate the trip, as a way to gain closure. Needing the car that the trip took place in, the one that Lennie now owns, he reluctantly agrees to let her come along. However, Lennie is less interested in John’s itinerary and more intrigued by a friend’s advice to seek out guardakin angels in Tallulah Falls, Georgia. Although the siblings have different paths in mind, they ultimately seek to achieve the same goal: peace.
Sounds intriguing, no? There’s something about a family drama and a road trip that just screams summer reading. Even so, as much as we are drawn to particular narratives at certain times of the year (e.g. cheesy holiday movies), we always want them to be a little bit different, affecting in a way that we didn’t quite expect. And, unfortunately, Someone to Watch Over not only fails to deliver anything new but it also treads so heavily in tropes and cliches that, in all of its 400-plus pages, it barely goes beneath the surface.
We have the vagabond sister in her cool hippie threads (a poet, nonetheless); the older, uptight brother, a successful businessman with the perfect family and house; the mother who died when Lennie was born; the recently-deceased father. It’s all a little on the nose, to say the least. There is also the fact that Mosley, Tennessee, is home to the Mosleys — the “IT” family. And one Mosley in particular impregnated Lennie when they were teens; she was forced to give the baby up for adoption, and now, however many years later, she’s curious about finding out what happened to the child. This might seem like a spoiler, but it’s not. It’s all put out there in the beginning — giving readers so much formulaic plot that all you can do is jump in the car and join the road trip.
In addition to a thick plot, the story suffers from too much telling and not enough showing. Everything is explained, and because it is written in a third-person omniscient point of view with frequent italicized inner monologues, nothing is left for the reader to wonder about. It’s all out in the open, safe, on the surface. If light predictable novels are what you enjoy, especially on holiday when you want to turn off your brain for awhile (no judgment here), then Someone to Watch Over might be worth your time. That said, for me, I wanted the novel to be something it wasn’t: a story about guardakin folkore and self-discovery, not a rehashing of trite family drama and town gossip.